NIH will retire most research chimpanzees

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted July 8, 2013

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The National Institutes of Health announced in June that it will retire all but 50 chimpanzees to sanctuaries where they will not be used for scientific or medical research. The move comes in response to a December 2011 Institute of Medicine report that said most biomedical research involving chimpanzees is unnecessary and ethically problematic. The IOM made exceptions for certain kinds of research involving monoclonal antibody therapies that might be used to treat conditions such as multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis (link).

“Americans have benefited greatly from the chimpanzees’ service to biomedical research, but new scientific methods and technologies have rendered their use in research largely unnecessary,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, MD, MPH. “Their likeness to humans has made them uniquely valuable for certain types of research, but also demands greater justification for their use. After extensive consideration with the expert guidance of many, I am confident that greatly reducing their use in biomedical research is scientifically sound and the right thing to do.”

The NIH said the chimpanzees it plans to retain will not be bred. More than 300 other chimps will be sent to sanctuaries over the next several years after some legal and financial hurdles are overcome, the agency said. Current projects using chimpanzees will be wound down “in a way that preserves the research and minimizes the impact on the animals.” A panel will be established to review whether projects proposing to use chimps as research subjects pass scientific and ethical muster.

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